NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne Inc. has put a new face on its flagship.Gone are the scaffolds and plywood walls that concealed the five-month-long construction work being done on the signature store at 650 Fifth Avenue here. In their place are floor-to-ceiling windows offering an expansive look into the brighter and refurbished two-story space at the corner of 52nd Street."What we’ve done is put a whole new facade on the store," said Bob Negron, group president in charge of specialty stores at Liz Claiborne, during an early morning walk-through of the store last Friday. "We’ve changed the layout to make it much more friendly for our customers. Before, it had more of an office-building look and you couldn’t really see how big the store was from the outside."The 13,000-square-foot space has not grown an inch, but it now appears to be about twice the size thanks to the newly added windows, lighter-toned floors and store fixtures, improved lighting and interior renovations, such as moving the sales check-out stations toward the side of the room, freeing up important selling and display space. The renovation, which spanned two years with the final construction portion starting in February, has allowed for 25 percent more products to be merchandised in the store.Accessories and Collection merchandise are concentrated on the first floor, while the new Spa line, Lizsport, Lizwear, Petites and more accessories are featured upstairs. Retail prices range from $39 for casual jeans to $49 for knit tops, while career looks range from $98 for pants to $199 for a structured jacket. Accessories are priced from $15 for earrings to $74 for a large handbag.Situated in a prime shopping area near Cartier, Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo and drawing millions of tourists each day, Paul Charron, chairman and chief executive officer, said having a retail presence in the heart of Manhattan is important because it sets a standard for the Liz Claiborne brand. There are 22 Liz Claiborne specialty stores in the U.S., including the flagship, which opened in August 1994.Real estate sources estimate the flagship does about $6.5 million in annual sales."This store is feminine, classic and modern and it personifies the brand," said Charron. "This is the way we want our brand to be seen and it’s an example of how we want our brand displayed. But it’s purpose is to sell clothes and it sees lots of traffic, including international and American tourists."Looking out onto Fifth Avenue from the second-floor rotunda, Negron said stores today need to create attractive environments to lure customers through the door. Extra touches like fresh flowers, candles, potpourri and a living-room-like setting upstairs with plenty of seating were added to create an inviting atmosphere where customers want to shop, Negron said."We want it to have a residential feel," Negron said. "The store’s designed to reflect the brand."Other additions — namely two rotunda areas on the first and second floor located near the entrance — were created for drama, Negron said, which is a key ingredient in the shopping experience. In line with that, an art installation by glass artist Dale Chihuly was created specifically for the store and spans floor to ceiling the entire height of the front window."This was custom-designed and fits in with our aesthetic," he said.

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